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Gregory Leads Richard Bland To Victory
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Feb 16, 2014, 10:27

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PETERSBURG After earning just a nine-point victory over Catawba Valley Community College earlier this season, No. 1 ranked Richard Bland knew they had a challenge in front of them. In fact, from the opening tip-off, the Buccaneers showed most of the energy on the court, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.

Catawba Valley rendered Tavon Mealy and the rest of the Statesmen's post-game almost irrelevant throughout the contest's first eight minutes by fronting the post. However, the Statesmen recognized what the Bucanneers were doing and adjusted almost as quickly.

After a basket by Catawba Valley's Cameron Redd pulled the Buccaneers to within one-point, the Statesmen answered with a 10-0 run of their own which was fueled by two of their nine 3-pointers on the game. LeQuan Thomas' five points during the run gave the Statesmen a lead they would not relinquish in a clinical 85-65 win for their 15th consecutive triumph.

"We've been improving on the court awareness of where the ball needs to go and I was very pleased with our effort from start to finish because we recognized those certain things," Richard Bland head coach Chuck Moore said following the game. "When one thing doesn't work, now at this stage of the year we are looking for our second and third options and guys are looking for it."

Moore may have been discussing offensive-set calls from the bench, but he might as well have been talking about the depth of his team as well.

Because as the contest progressed, it became more and more evident Catawba Valley aimed to take Mealy and Micah Thomas away from the Statesmen offense. During the first half of play, Thomas connected on just one jump-shot which foreshadowed the type of afternoon he had.

Thomas shot just 2-of-9 from the field, hitting his lone 3-pointer of the game at the 9:21 mark of the second half to complete mini 6-0 spurt, finishing with just 5 points on the afternoon.

While Mealy began to find the basket at times, converting off a few offensive rebounds and in the transition game, his 12-point effort on 5-of-6 shooting is not the type of performance which the Statesmen have become used too. However, even with both Thomas and Mealy scoring just 17 points of their 32-point combined average, Richard Bland's depth impressed enough to capture a 20-point win.

"We have so much talent at so many positions," Moore said. "Micah was taking good shots and they just weren't falling. It's just the way this team is really buying into the team-aspect of making the extra pass, trusting their teammates and it shows in a game like this."

But nothing stuck out more than the added dimension Moore now has at his disposal with Avery Ugba returning to the lineup.

Even though Ugba came off the bench, Moore paired the 6-foot-7 forward with the 6-foot-8 Melvin Gregory during certain spurts of the game to great effect. In fact, in two separate occasions, Ugba and Gregory orchestrated their own personal runs with one a 5-0 spurt to put the Statesmen ahead 75-45 with 5:34 remaining in the second half.

Yet, that would explain just one side of the ball.

The duo had a dominating effect on the defensive side where the mere sight of the towering forwards forced the opposition to shoot from the outside and stay out of the paint, helping Ugba to a 11-point, 10-rebound effort.

"It's nice to have two long athletic guys who can score, but can also play defense," Moore said of the forwards. "They even altered shoots. Guys are hesitant to go into the paint when you have those two on the court, so it's nice to have that combo."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

Although, on this night it was Gregory who stood out among the rest of the Statesmen.

The forward dropped in a game-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-5 from beyond the 3-point line, showing an expansion of his game. And it was the three-ball which helped Gregory carry the Statesmen through the first half of play where he scored 15 points to set the tone.

His effort to step up led to others doing the same.

Evan Bates added 7 points, Trayvonte Brown scored 5 and Marquis Powell scored all of his four points in the first half. It all adds up to a team focused on accomplishing one goal at a time win each game and do it anyway they can.

"One day of practice and one day at a time is all we can ask for," Moore said of the mindset. "I said it will come together if we do that each game and continue to get better each game."

After holding their last three opponents to 70 points or below while having other scoring options emerge, Richard Bland continues to improve as the season heads to its conclusion. With just five games remaining, the Statesmen need to continue to trend upward in order to fulfill their lofty aspirations of a national title.

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